Lighten Up

20130808-175957.jpg

 

The heaviness of life can be overwhelming. It’s important to keep things light. I have a few thoughts about attitudes towards work stuff, projects, and in general, all the stuff we have to do.

Lighten your load. Prioritize the stuff that’s most important. Those may not be the things are a screaming for attention. Identify the most important things, and break them down into smaller pieces. Make your mountain into smaller hills.

Lighten your grip. There may be stuff you need to let go. There may be tasks or projects in your workplace that someone else can do for you or with you. Most likely, they’re better and more efficient at it anyways. There are actual tasks and projects that are waiting for someone, who likes that kind of stuff, to do them.

Lighten your mood. Make the most out of your situations. Not everything is enjoyable to do, but find ways to make tasks and projects a pleasant experience. My personal tip: play music… all the time.

The demands of life: home, family, work, business, public and private can rush you like a flood. Lighten up.

 

Kids Need Prayer

20130730-153157.jpgI saw this earlier as I read through the take-home activity sheets we give to our children every week here at church. I was heartbroken to come upon this, and I thought of a couple of questions that I’ll pass on to you parents and leaders of children.

  • Are you praying for your children?
  • Are you praying with your children?
  • Are you teaching your children to pray?

Lessons from a conference

20130723-123340.jpg

I’m still recovering from conference hangover as I type this. I will spare you the details, but if children’s ministry is involved in a conference then that means tons of pizza. At least around here it does. With an abundance of pizza flowing over a period of a few days, bloating and gassiness are unavoidable. So, what did I learn or re-learn from a conference we just finished at our church?

  • What worked last time doesn’t equate to automatic success the next time.
  • Always have back-up plans.
  • There is no such thing as overstaffing an event for children.
  • When all else fails, have a dance contest.

Special events are always heaps of hard work and long days. The process is just as important as the actual event. I realize that Jesus loves me whether I think the event was a resounding success or miserable failure. The truth is… so do the kids.

Are the kids listening?

Are the kids listening in your children’s ministry? You are communicating, but are they listening? I found this note a child left behind. She apparently was taking notes during our church service time. I had to ask myself, “Shouldn’t finding notes like this be the norm?”

There’s always going to be a number of children who are not coming into your church doors by choice. There will be plenty who do. We are competing for their attention. Here are 3 keys to guide your programming choices and tweaks to your children’s ministry.

  • Make it fun. Our goal is not to entertain children. The message is sacred, but be strategic in how you deliver that message. Games, skits, challenges, big group, small group, more games, more skits… whatever it takes to bring the message at a different angle.
  • Center your message around Jesus. Sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes are curriculum choices we make end up being more about being better citizens than helping children grow their faith in Christ.
  • Care about kids. The children know when you care about them. When children feel valued they tend to want to be a part of what you are doing. Train your leaders to connect with children.

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but just some simple keys to use a mini-checklist for your ministry to children to be awesome and a time and place where children want to be.

Coloring Page of the Week

Photo on 5-31-13 at 10.29 AM
We do video announcements in our kids church time, so that our volunteer leaders don’t have to remember every event or have to read off of notes. This weekend, I am bringing back coloring pages of the week. The children have the option of going to the coloring page table during free time before and after the church program. It is very interesting how the children get into “Coloring Page of the Week” knowing that they have a chance to be highlighted. Maybe I should make a mobile app, where kids can show off their artwork. I typically just take a picture of the coloring page and flash it on the screen during announcements time. This time I threw in some selfies. Thanks Olivia for sharing your coloring page.

Children On Social Media

social media icons

Social Media and kids

Would you let your child freely interact with strangers? That question is the basis for my thoughts and opinions on children using social media. It is hard to have a simplistic grasp of the explosion of social media. We can share our lives via photo, video, sentences, and a song in an instant. We are interacting in ways that we couldn’t imagine years ago. Even my 75-year old low-tech dad is FaceBooking now. Times have changed. Social media has opened avenues of communication that allows the participant to access dozens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people. Where do our children fit in the social media picture that is increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives.
That brings me back to the first question. Would you let your children freely interact with strangers? The answer for my children is no. In public situations, when strangers approach my children, I make sure I redirect the interaction between me and the stranger. When I’m shopping, I don’t let my children leave my side to interact with people I don’t know. Why would I allow my children to do that on the internet?
Things to think about…
    • Predators are rampant on the internet. They are all over the internet in every social media platform: FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
    • Personal profiles can be easily be created to misrepresent the user. A predator wouldn’t typically identify himself as one on his profile. People aren’t who they say they are. As I type, I’m looking at a spam account on my Instagram. It’s a stock photo of a model. Who knows who the real person is behind the account? I don’t. Neither does your child.
    • Peer pressure to post things for shock value. We are a “like” hungry society. The more likes and reposts on a post, then the better. People pay money to buy Twitter followers. “Likes,” “Favorites,” “Repins,” and “Reposts,” are the fuel that make social media go. That pressure is on our children to fit in their digital world as well as their physical world. One easy way to get attention to internet activity is to promote sex and vulgarity. The pressure is on our children to promote the same things.
So when can my kid join in?
I’m going back to my theme. The permissions I allow my children to be in the physical world is similar to the interaction I would allow my children to have on the internet. If I allow my son to work at the local movie theater, where the bulk of his interaction is with people he doesn’t know, then yes, I would allow that in his digital world as well. With boundaries? Oh yes, and I will set them. Freedom without responsibilities and accountability is not freedom. The process is all about trust, and trust is earned, not given.
What is your involvement?
Parenting is active. Anytime, you don’t interact with your children or you don’t actively supervise your children’s activities, it is very likely that your children will go beyond the boundaries. Street signs remind me about the rules while I drive to keep me and others around me safe. Those road signs aren’t consistent on the internet. The parent must be guiding their children, and that includes setting limits on time, content, and interaction. I can and will tell my child, who can and cannot be his internet friends.
Our children need boundaries the same way a river needs banks. When there are banks, the river is a source of life. When the banks are gone the river becomes a flood. I believe in saying no with purpose. I believe that setting boundaries for your children will help them create boundaries for their own lives.

Genuine Leadership

20130525-151622.jpg

Genuine Leadership

 

It’s easy to be a leadership junkie and get caught up in all of the facets of leadership to grow your team and your ministry. How many books have you read about leadership? How many audio messages have you listened to? How many conferences have you attended? You can be totally equipped to lead the masses. However, if you lead children and lead the leaders who lead the children, then it is vital that your leadership should be genuine. Children need leaders who are genuinely imperfect and real to pattern their lives after. Your leaders deserve the same type of leadership.

 

Relational leadership is probably your style, and if it isn’t, it should be how you lead. Collaboration and teamwork must be at the top of your values list. If you want your people, young and old, to take this journey with you and accomplish the mission, you must be real with people. You work too closely to people frequently enough that most of them can discern where you are with them. Here’s your checklist to provide leadership that keeps you real and benefits the team you’re leading and the children you minister to.

 

  • Acknowledge your limitations.
  • Be accountable.
  • Humble yourself.
  • Stay visible.

 

Acknowledge your limitations.

This is not a knock on faith. Yes, you can do all things in Christ Jesus, but you know what you are not good at. Stop kidding yourself. Furthermore, don’t waste the majority of your time trying to improve on your weaknesses. Work with people who are strong in these areas. It requires that you share your authority to empower these people to make things happen in areas you cannot. What about me? Administration is my weakness. I’m not good at it. I even despise it most of the time. It’s not a cop out to be lazy. There are administrative duties that I cannot, should not, and will not entrust someone else to do for me. That’s when I ask for help. What’s your weak area? Have you partnered with someone who is gifted in the area you are not?

 

Be accountable

This is the least popular of points, and it is also the least practiced. You must have people in your life who can tell you like it is. These are the straight shooters. Do you really want to surround yourself with people who will nod their heads and agree with every single decision and direction you take? You must be accountable at least one other leader who can and will question your decisions and your attitudes towards these decisions.

 

Humble yourself.

You cannot be accountable without being humble. You are a leader because you have a measure of confidence and ambition to go along with your gift. Yet, you still need to humble yourself to stay grounded. Isn’t it better to humble yourself rather than allowing a person or a situation humble you? True humility says, “I don’t know it all: not even close.” Being humble means being flexible enough to be teachable. My favorite team sport is basketball. The best basketball players of all time only made 50% of their shots. Only Jesus can make them all.

 

Stay visible

Leading people is not easy. If it were, more people would lead. Stay visible. Be approachable. Be there for people. Be there for people as much as you can. This requires a lot of effort, but be close enough, frequently enough, so your team can see your faults as well as your strengths. Your team will see that you are a “real” person. The children will see that you are a “real” person.

 

Show your team and the children that you are much more than a leader who preaches, emails, FaceBooks, and Tweets leadership sayings. Anyone can quote or re-post a John Maxwell principle. Your leaders and your children are more than willing to join in the journey with you when they make that interpersonal connection with the “real” you. These connections promote unity and synergy. Moving forward with great momentum is an awesome thing. Keep it real and lead for real.

Bringing value to a child’s life

shannon praying

Thanks to KidMin360 for giving me the privilege of sharing my thoughts on children’s ministry. Here’s a copy of my last guest blog post. If you work with children, do you ask yourself questions like,

  • “When the children leave my church or my classroom or my program, are they glad that they went?”
  • “Do I help each child view his true value as an individual? As a person created by God Himself?”
  • “When I child is with me, where does he see himself on the scale of importance? Is he a nuisance? Is he even noticed? Is he important and valued?”

My first career, fresh out of college, was as an elementary school teacher. I worked in the public school system as a teacher for over 10 years in inner-city schools. One of my most memorable school years was bookmarked by one 9-year old girl. Yuri was brought into my classroom in the last quarter the of the school year. Actually, she was physically carried into my 4th Grade classroom by the administrator. This girl balled up into a fetal position for the entire day. For at least a week, she spent her days with her head face down on the desk buried inside her folded arms. She responded my attempts to talk to her with complete silence. I was frustrated but was not going to give up. I had just heard a series at church about valuing people.

If I was going to make a connection with Yuri, I knew I had to do something different. After the first bell, I yelled Yuri’s name with all the enthusiasm I could muster, as if I were the announcer of a championship boxing match, as all the students lined up in front of their classroom for school. I forgot to inform the rest of my class of my strategy, so they were enjoyably caught off-guard by my antics. After I ceremoniously announced Yuri’s name at the start of every school day consistently for two weeks, Yuri began to speak to me through a translator-classmate. She made eye contact, but instead of talking to me, she whispered in her friend’s ear what she wanted me to know. I played along with this to keep the communication open. Yuri didn’t do any of the classwork but would sneak a smile every once in a while to let me know that she was listening.

The extent of this communication lasted for another couple of weeks. Though this was not uncommon for this part of the city, Yuri’s parents were suspiciously unavailable for any school meetings, as our community worker worked tirelessly to get Yuri the help that she needed. Obviously, something was wrong.

One afternoon, about a month after we first met, Yuri approached me as I graded papers on my desk after school. Most of the students had left for the playground except for a couple of helpers cleaning up in the hallway. Without any prompting from me, Yuri began talking to me about herself and what she thought of school for the next 15 minutes. I think I may have squeezed in maybe a few words in this conversation. However, I was quiet for most of our discussion because I had been in shock listening to my student gab with me as if we were best friends. At the end of our conversation, Yuri gave me a hug and said that this was her last day of school, and I was the best teacher she ever had.

At the end of the day, one of our administrators called me in her office to passionately explain what had happened. Social Services had been tracking Yuri’s parents for possible neglect and child abuse. To elude Social Services, Yuri’s parents withdrew her from the school and left the area. I never saw Yuri again, but the memory of her reminds me to care about what matters most.

Our windows of opportunity to reach children are many times closed a lot sooner than we expect. How do we get our children to see their value in Christ? I can’t be just a lesson children learn on a Sunday. We have to value them.

Value children in the program.

There should always be a segment to welcome visitors. Years ago, I went to church in Hawaii. Hospitality is a big part people’s culture. When the pastor welcomed the visitors, the congregation exploded in a dance as the band played. A volunteer put a lei around my neck within 5 seconds, and I was surrounded by huggers from every corner. I felt like a million bucks, and I’m an adult! What if we treated every young visitor that way? Are you highlighting children in any other ways? Birthdays? Kid of the week? What are your ideas? Are you putting the ideas in action?

Value children on purpose.

It must deliberate. What if it comes off as phony? It won’t be when your interactions with children are genuine. You have to provide training and follow up for your volunteers. Do you think that the employees at Disneyland just automatically know how to positively interact with families just by being employed by Disney? They were trained. Are you training your volunteers to value children?

Value children with passion.

Yes, be over the top in many cases if not all. Enthusiasm is caught not taught. You can provide all the “customer service” type training you want, but it will fall short if you are not leading the way. As the children’s ministry pastor, director, assistant, or volunteer you must exemplify passion to your team. You set the tone.

Valuing children must be embedded in the program. It must be on purpose. It must be passionate. When you do those things, it become organic. In other words, valuing children becomes part of your ministry’s DNA. When children feel valued, they will view themselves as valuable. What would happen to your children’s ministry if the children who participated in it knew their true value in Christ? Are you ready to expand the dynamics of the children’s ministry? Many times, we may not see the fruit of our efforts when we reach out to children. Yuri is my reminder that our efforts are never in vain, and that Christ will use us to reach even the toughest hearts.